Much Ado About Nothing

A masquerade ball in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: David BlueMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Directed by Dean Paul Gibson
Bard on the Beach
Main Stage , Vanier Park
to September 25, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I confess I really love the play Much Ado about Nothing and it's mainly because of the  verbal sparring between the spirited Beatrice and the self-confident cocky Benedick. I just wish I had their gifts for the snappy comeback - but I guess I need to channel the Bard to really match their wit.

Antonio (Allan Morgan), Beatrice<br />
(Jennifer Lines), Margaret (Sarah Afful) and Ursula (Patti Allan)<br />
comfort Hero (Almeera Jiwa)  Photo: David Blue

The overall production is excellent and visually appealing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Set designer Drew Facey has created an elegant set with curved staircases. Gibson has set this in the Italian countryside around 1910. The courtyard has black ironwork gates and railings contrasting with the beautiful white and cream arches and columns, and lighting designer Gerald King adds a rich warmth to the set.  Mara Gottler's palette of cream and earth colors for the dresses evokes a sense of summer. Sound designer and composer Murray Price adds a Spanish touch to the music and I enjoyed the flamenco style dancing at the beginning.

The ensemble turned in strong performances.  Briefly the story goes that the victorious Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon (Martin Sims) and his men pass through Messina where Leonato (Gerry Mackay ) is governor. Count Claudio (Gaelan Beatty) falls for Hero (Almeera Jiwa), the modest daughter of Leonato and proposes to marry her. Another of Don Pedro's men, Signor Benedick declares that marriage is the last thing he would ever become embroiled in. Don Pedro, Leonato, Claudio, Hero and Hero's attendant, Ursula (Patti Allan), scheme to get Leonato's niece, Beatrice, and Benedick to realize that they are in love with each other.

Meanwhile Don John (Parnelli Parnes), Don Pedro's scheming brother, together with his henchman Borachio (Haig Sutherland), plot to convince Claudio that Hero is not the innocent girl she seems to be. They use the unwitting Margaret (Sarah Afful) to deceive Claudio and Leonato and of course, all the men including her father, immediately assume the worst and don't believe her denials. Friar Francis advises the family to pretend that Hero is dead while they try to repair her reputation.

Thanks to the comic relief,  Dogberry (Simon Bradbury) and members of The Watch (Shawn Macdonald and Allan Morgan), the truth of Don John's scheming emerges and all's well that ends well - oh no that's another play.

Benedick (John Murphy) and Beatrice (Jennifer Lines). Photo: David BlueThe Beatrice/Benedick aspect becomes important for me because so many of the elements of the play are used repeatedly in the Bard's works. The evil scheming illegitimate brother; the father, husband  or suitor who immediately believes the worst rumours; the wronged woman who "dies" only to come to life at the opportune moment - and then promptly forgives those who wronged her - are devices used over and over again. So that the witty text really saves the day.

There are so many ways in which to play the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick but I really enjoyed the choices made by Jennifer Lines and John Murphy.  Lines sparkled with humour throughout their early witty exchanges but at the idea that Benedick really loved her, her repartee sudenly took on a glowing passion - and she fell in love! Murphy found many humorous touches that saved Benedick from smugness and really connected with the audience.

Overall this is an excellent start to the season. This 21st Season of Bard on the Beach that is dedicated to the memory of Canadian theatre legend Douglas Campbell,  and a production of this quality honours him.

For tickets call the Box office at 604-739-0559 or book on line.  For a Bard Pack you need to call.
Some shows are already sold out.

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